Tips for Being Successful in Online Classes

college student working on her online class outside

As online learning becomes more common, many learners may wonder what it takes to be successful in online classes. Most people have experienced an in-person class where the routine, structure and designated location help ensure success. Yet online learning turns all of that on its head. In order to be successful in online college classes, you have to be in control of your own learning. This autonomy allows you to work and learn whenever and wherever you need to, making it easier to balance your academic, family and work commitments. With all of these benefits, it makes sense that many students are ready to give online classes a try.

Below are a few tips for how to recognize and overcome some of the unique challenges of online college classes. This advice is a great start to getting the most value out of your online learning experience.

Set Goals

After you determine the structure of your online course and all of the assignments that you will have to complete, spend some time setting your goals for the course. Make a to-do list at the beginning of each week that includes the readings you want to accomplish, the assignments that you must complete and any upcoming assessments that you need to prepare for. Check these things off as you complete them throughout the week.

During an in-person course, a professor would often have due dates written on the board or in a lecture slideshow. Because professors reuse online course content, they may not list specific dates in online sections of the course. This means it is up to you to identify and keep track of when things are due.

One great way to set goals is to work with someone else. Maybe you know someone in the course or get to know them through a project. You can even enlist the help of family members or friends to keep you accountable. Check in with your partner at the beginning of the week to let them know what your goals are. Then contact them at the end of the week to share what you were able to accomplish.

Manage Your Time

The idea of setting goals really speaks to time management. Since an online college class allows you to set your own schedule, you need to work during the time that you do have. If you work during the day, you will need to schedule time in the morning or evening to complete your online classwork. If you prefer to spend evenings with family, that leaves you with mornings and afternoons to work on your class.

To get started with time management for online classes, look at the syllabus as soon as it is available. Mark major assignment due dates on your calendar so you know when they are coming up. And do not forget to keep your personal calendar up-to-date so you are aware of family functions, vacations or work commitments that may interfere with your study schedule.

Once you have your long-term assignments figured it out, decide what your weeks will look like. Create a schedule that you can follow that allows you to watch lectures, read your text and complete assignments in a predictable way. Block off study time on your calendar and then use that time to complete your coursework. Getting into a routine of doing a little bit of work each day will help you be successful in your online classes in the long run.

Check in with yourself at strategic points during the semester. Ensure that you are spending enough time on your assignments and your course reading. If you find that you have been cramming for exams or doing assignments at the last minute, it is time to re-evaluate your study plan and come up with something that works better for you and your schedule.

Give Yourself Space

A dedicated study space can be a major factor for successful online class completion. A quiet, well organized learning environment will help you study, establish a routine and get in the right frame of mind for completing your online classes.

Your workspace can be a table, at the library or a local coffee shop. Some people need total silence whereas others prefer some background noise. Make sure you find the environment that works best for you and increases your productivity.

Whatever environment you choose, make sure it has internet access. Since you are taking an online course, you will need a high-speed internet connection for any lectures and videos you may need to watch. The space also needs to have enough room for you to spread out your notes as needed. You will also want to bring headphones for listening to your course work if you are using a shared space.

Get Rid of Distractions

Getting online is second nature to most students. Social media and other distractions can be difficult to ignore when you’re supposed to be completing schoolwork online. You will likely need to find ways to lessen the distractions so that you make your online class a priority.

One strategy everyone can use is to turn off cell phones if they are not being used for coursework. This way, every time a message or notification pops up, you will not be tempted to stop what you are working on.

Know Yourself

Being successful in an online class comes down to knowing yourself. You have to know what environment works best for you to study in, as well as what distracts you and what motivates you. You have to know your schedule and how to fit in study sessions for your online classes.

You should also know your personal learning styles and preferences. If you are a visual learner, then read the transcripts of the lecture videos. If you are an auditory learner, put your headphones in and focus on the audio content.


Your online education experience will only be as great as you make it. If you engage with fellow classmates during discussions and ask your professor questions, you can mimic the involvement of an in-person class. You will be able to develop a rapport with your classmates and create a class community that is comfortable for you and for everyone else.

Active participation in an online class means that you should schedule more than one time a week to log in. Even if you have completed your readings and other assignments early in the week, log in later in the week so you can comment or reply to other people's posts and assignments. You can be an active participant in the discussion board throughout the week.

Now that online classes are becoming more common, consider enrolling in one to see how it fits with your lifestyle and learning needs. At Grand Canyon University, we have been offering online classes and online degree programs for many years. Click the Request Info button at the top of this page to learn more and get started on your learning journey.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.